Friday, February 08, 2008

Coming back down to earth in Krakow

Poland… I never really though about including Poland in my itinerary until, when asked by a Polish person if I was going, and replying with a firm “No”... I received a death stare that quickly changed my mind “Oh, well... I mean… I just don’t have time… I mean… I haven’t really thought about it… um… I mean… where would you suggest that I go?”. “Krakow” was the resounding answer that I received then, and from all of the Poles questioned from that point onwards… So Krakow was added to my list… another country, another badge, another hostel…

My first impression of Krakow was obscured by an American style shopping mall. I think Obscured is the right word… I mean… You shouldn’t blame the town planner for thinking that the first thing that a tourist would want to see when arriving from a western country to a post-communist country, would be an enormous mall… and that the first thing they would want to eat would be McDonalds or KFC. Not at all… it’s a free world. Now. And they can put their mall wherever the hell they want. I’m not going to suggest anything different at all… please smell my sarcasm… it was ridiculous. Such a gorgeous city shouldn’t be hidden behind a behemoth of an atrocity as this ENORMOUS 4 storey modern cathedral to consumerism.

Enough ranting (On that subject). My first real impression of Poland was the walk to the Hostel “Bling Bling” accompanied by two young Canadian girls from Manitoba (? I think…) whom had sat, giggling constantly, only a few rows away from me the entire journey from Berlin, and I had not spoken to them apart from apologizing to one of them when I accidentally ran into her outstretched elbow when walking down the isle to the toilet. Anyway, we got off the train at roughly the same time, and as I was walking past them on the platform I heard them ask one of the people selling hostel rooms where they might find this So-Called “Bling Bling” Hostel… I told them that they could follow me as I was staying there as well, and we quickly got slightly lost on the way. Mainly, I conclude and insist, because they are girls and girls can’t read maps and they wouldn’t give it to me to look at. On-top of that, the directions given by the booking website on how to get there were relatively vague (under the orange roof? I don’t see an orange roof!) Bastards.

Bling Bling Hostel was an experience. I think that’s the nicest thing I could say about it. Although for 2 of the 4 nights I stayed there, I DID have a bed in a room to myself… which was nice. Apart from that… there were only 2 bathrooms (yes, mum, they were bathrooms… they were where you had your shower AND toilet) for the whole of the hostel which you had to walk through reception from the rooms to get to. The showers were cold. And my room entered directly from reception, in which the particular person on duty for the night shift would, without fail, sit and talk loudly in Polish for the majority of the time that I wanted to sleep. The internet hardly worked at all… and when it did, was so slow as to make it virtually pointless to use. It DID have a free washing machine, which would have been fantastic to advertise, as I had – just the night before – gone and spent Time and Euros on washing clothes at a Laundromat in Berlin. I’m sure I could go on, but I won’t. I don’t want to sound like I’m whining about a hostel, which despite its oddly okay reviews, DID only cost me about 12 Euro a night to stay in.

The first night in town, I got persuaded into going out to get something to eat. So I walked to the town square or Market square which is enormous and surrounded by every kind of restaurant you can imagine, and eventually settled on a little place down an alley that served traditional meals. Quite nice… I had “meat” filled things… parcels of pasta/pastry-ish substance and a salad. Both of which I was very happy with and were very nice. And very cheap. After that it was decided that we needed dessert, so we went and got some amazing ice-cream. Really fantastic. I’ll say nothing of the fact that I think the ice-cream would have actually frozen more if we’d taken it outside… it was freezing but it was nice… overall it was a pleasant, not too giggly, evening.

The next day I went to Auschwitz. What an experience that was… although wandering around the barbed-wire surrounded camp was sobering in itself, really two things touched me much more deeply – one was the room that was literally full to the roof with shoes. The other was a wall on which was written in tiny writing the names of 60,000 people taken from the Netherlands to the Camp… of all the tings these two displays really hit home the most and hurt the deepest. And I really don’t want to dwell on the experience, except to say that it should be on everyone’s list of things to do before they die. Amazing.

The following day I went to the other, less intimidating, tourist attraction in the area – the 700+ year old salt mine. I mean… it was good… but after Auschwitz it was really just a hole in the ground… *shrugs* that’s really all I have to say about it. I mean it was nice…


Next stop – North to Denmark and Copenhagen… Land of Vikings and tall blonde women…


The only thing that sustains one through life is the consciousness of the immense inferiority of everybody else, and this is a feeling that I have always cultivated.
- Oscar Wilde

1 comment:

Liney said...

Well, you know the Polish pride - it's what kept their country together after not having a homeland for 150 years. Understanding that it could also suck you into Krakow ;) I have a Polish friend at school here - super ambitious and in love with his homeland.